Will Dependents Still Get Social Security Benefits If The Primary Recipient Is Incarcerated?

Landing in jail can have a negative impact on person's life. Case in point, the Social Security Administration will cut off payments to anyone who's incarcerated, regardless of whether that person receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or payments. Whether the person's family members are affected by the individual's incarceration depends on the person's payment status before he or she was put in jail. Here's more information about this issue.

Receiving Payments Prior to Incarceration

If the person who was incarcerated was receiving payments before he or she was sent to jail, then the person's family members will continue getting any money they were eligible for based on the defendant's record. For instance, children under 18, disabled children over the age of majority, and 18 to 19-year-old full time students can receive payments in the amount of up to half the primary recipients' disability benefit. These payments will continue even while the prisoner's disability payments are suspended, as long as the primary recipient remains eligible for benefits in general.

Family members who are not receiving payments, but are eligible for them, can still apply for benefits while the primary recipient is in jail. Once approved, the payments will usually start once the primary recipient has been disabled for five months.

Not Receiving Payment Prior to Incarceration

Unfortunately, family members of defendants who were not receiving SSDI or SSI payments before incarceration cannot apply for and receive benefits while the person is in jail. This is because the primary recipient must first apply for benefits, and the Social Security Administration won't process the person's application for SSDI or SSI until he or she has been released from jail.

There may be a way around this provision, though. The Social Security Administration's policy dictates the agency cannot pay benefits to anyone who is incarcerated for more than 30 continuous days. Benefits are also withheld for people who are sent to institutions at the public's expense in connection to a criminal case or after the person is released from jail but required to be confined because he or she is a sexual predator.

You may be able to still apply for benefits if you can get the court to stagger the defendant's sentence so that he or she is not spending a continuous 30 days behind bars. The other option is to have the person sent to a private institution rather than one sustained by public funds. People committed to private institution sustained by private funds are still eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, both of these options require you to work with a criminal attorney who can make a case for one of them.

For more information about how incarceration impact Social Security disability payments, contact an attorney knowledgeable about SSD law (like those at Crowley Ahlers & Roth Co LPA) for assistance.